Boston the Hot Spot for Bots

The city is set to host the 10th annual RoboBusiness conference, an event that draws visitors from more than 22 countries to network, meet experts and see the newest technology in the global robotics industry.

by Jessica Van Sack, McClatchy News Service / October 13, 2014

Global robotics executives will converge on Boston this week as the leading business development event for the robotics industry has its 10th annual conference here, solidifying the Hub’s reputation as a national leader in artificial intelligence bots.

Cutting-edge innovators will display robots that teach special education students, toy robots, autonomous vehicles for mining and military manufacturing, wearable robots that help people with disabilities walk, and humanoid bots complete with arms and legs.

“Boston has really become the focal point for leadership in the promotion of robotics on a national stage,” said RoboBusiness attendee Rich Mahoney, director of robotics at SRI International, a Silicon Valley research and development nonprofit. “More than iRobot being founded there, it’s the leadership those founders have shown.”

Executives from Bedford-based iRobot, forefathers of the iconic Roomba and to a large extent Greater Boston’s robotics scene, will be among the 1,200 CEOs, CTOs, CSOs, investment partners and VPs of business development who will attend RoboBusiness at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. The three-day event, which begins tomorrow, draws visitors from more than 22 countries to network, meet experts and see the newest technology in the global robotics industry.

Billerica-based Harvest Automation plans to debut a new, unnamed robot for handling and moving crates in warehouses.

Charles Grinnell, founder and COO of Harvest Automation, said the size and capabilities of his robots allow them to work alongside people, increasing safety and resulting in an estimated efficiency increase of up to 50 percent.

It’s a version of their HV-100, a robot that picks up plants, already used in agricultural businesses throughout the nation.

“No other automation suppliers are doing that type of thing,” Grinnell said. “It’s a very low-cost and flexible solution that are safe to work around people.”

Another notable Hub appearance: Cynthia Breazeal, the creator of family robot Jibo, profiled by Booting Up in August, is a keynote speaker.

Casey Nobile, co-chairwoman of the conference, said collaboration is the key to progress in the industry.

“Technologists who may be in labs all over the world working on very specific challenges can meet and share ideas so that these technologies are built into tomorrow’s robotics systems,” she said. “That’s what really drives the industry.”

©2014 the Boston Herald